According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 60 percent of first-time teachers say they’re not sufficiently prepared to face the challenge of addressing the social and emotional needs of today’s students in tandem with achieving academic learning outcomes.
Ashley Smith, a senior early childhood and special education major, will not be one of them.
The recent graduate has spent the past two years as a Fellow with Bloomsburg University’s McDowell Institute for Teacher Excellence in Positive Behavior Support, where she has been focused on researching positive behavioral interventions. Her work will be showcased this week statewide at the 2017 PA PBIS Implementers’ Forum. She is the first BU undergraduate ever to do so, according to Timothy Knoster, Ed.D., executive director of the McDowell Institute and professor of exceptionality programs.
“He encouraged me to submit a poster proposal for competitive review,” said Smith, regarding the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN). “I basically had to submit a three-paragraph essay about what I wanted to present, the evidence to support my proposal, and how I was going to display the data.”
When Smith was in her first year of her fellowship she completed a synthesis project looking at Mifflinburg Elementary School’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) implementations. There, she met with the school’s principal and its PBIS coach about their PBIS framework.
“I got to experience the school first-hand and see how PBIS really does have such a positive effect on student learning and school climate,” Smith said. “This year, I decided to apply for the fellowship again to delve even deeper into PBIS.”
This past year was Smith’s second fellowship under Knoster.
The institute, launched at BU five years ago, is designed to equip educators with strategies, practices and experiences to effectively support the academic, social and emotional growth of all students.
Smith said without the McDowell Institute and Knoster she wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to present at a state PAPBS Implementers Forum or been able to work with Mifflinburg Elementary School that has an exceptional PBIS implementation to help support the students.
“My goal is to be a special education teacher — and after seeing Mifflinburg and how smooth that school runs — I want to work in a school that is implementing PBIS,” Smith said. “However, if my first teaching position is in a school that is not implementing PBIS, I will advocate for the school to begin to explore implementation and get a team together and make it happen!”
According to Smith, there are more than 800 school across the state that have received PBIS training. Smith applied to the McDowell student fellowship to learn more about positive behavioral support. Her fellowship has proven how effective behavioral support is and how it can change a school for the better.
“I have always been so passionate about working with children,” Smith said. “After experiencing Mifflinburg Elementary School’s implementation of PBIS, I can only hope that more schools are adopting and implementing PBIS because this is what students need.”